Decision tree for choosing VR system


To be released:

  • Oculus Link for the Quest – low latency cable connection between PC and the Quest allowing to access massive PC VR content libraries, November 2019
  • Oculus hands tracking for the Quest, early 2020

Oculus Link will turn the Quest into a Swiss Army Knife of the VR: a standalone system which can be used as a headset for a PC as well. In other words the best value for money.


If you happen to search for a specific pair: device vs device, comparison tables can be more useful, however this article can very well serve you well by confirming or invalidating your initial choice QUICKLY (skip the intro).

If you’ve just started trying to figure out which VR system to get, you probably noticed it’s not exactly the easiest thing to do because the selection is rather abundant these days.

The better known VR systems are:
Acer, Asus, Daydream, Dell Visor, Gear VR, HP, HTC Vive & Vie Pro, Vive Focus Plus, Lenovo Explorer, Oculus Go, Rift, Rift S & Quest, Mirage Solo, PSVR, Samsung Odyssey/Odyssey Plus and Pimax.

If you wanted to compare each of them to each other, you would end up with more than 171 comparison pairs. Intimidating, isn’t it ?

Is there a quick and painless route ?

Tell me about your mother board

This article will help you to evaluate all the major devices without breaking a sweat.

The whole process is laid out as a decision tree. At each stage you will make a selection narrowing down the available choices.

All devices are arranged in groups which share certain key characteristics. Each stage of a decision tree is constructed as a list of major pros & cons comparing one group against the other.

You simply work your way down the tree until you end up with a handful of devices. At this point some minor differences and current price deals will help you make a final call.

Let’s go !

Please read from the start to go through the entire decision tree. Links peppered throughout the text will let you skip the sections which are not applicable in your case.

Introduction
Best value for money
Cheapest VR
Standalone VR (Oculus, Mirage Solo, Vive Focus) vs PC and PS4 VR
PSVR or PC VR ?
PC VR: inside-out or outside-in ?
Oculus Rift S or Windows Mixed Reality ?
Windows Mixed Reality – which one: Acer, Asus, Lenovo, Dell, HP, Samsung ?
Outside-in tracking: Vive vs Vive Pro vs Oculus Rift
Vive Pro vs Samsung Odyssey and Odyssey +

Is it worth the price ?



There are a couple of things you should be aware of before you even start.

First of all: motion sickness (if you know all about it then press here to skip).

To cut a long story short – it is likely that initially, VR will make you sick. It takes some time and patience to develop “VR legs”.

You shouldn’t start with a fast paced dog-fight and try to force yourself through it. This may result in a retch every time you try VR again, not to mention a few stains on the carpet.

Start with something slow where you can stand still and just interact with the environment.


The second thing to remember is the risk of VR headaches (skip – don’t !)

Once you put your hands on a headset you shouldn’t cut corners with adjustments, especially with respect to IPD. Without doing this correctly, you may end up in a wonderland where proportions between your body and other objects are weird. This tends to result in nasty headaches.

You can measure your IPD using a mirror and a ruler or a webcam. Just remember that if it is above the 67 mm range, any software correction in most cases won’t be good enough and you should consider getting a headset with a hardware adjustment mechanism.


The third thing to bear in mind is a problem of accommodating your glasses (yawn – skip).

In general VR headsets are more comfortable without glasses. The level of comfort when you use them varies from headset to headset between good and problematic.

For some systems you can get a correction insert which you mount inside the headset.

Other than that, if your giant goggles are too huge to fit into the headset, maybe you should think about contact lenses.

That’s health & safety covered.



Let’s start with the best value for money.

Right now Oculus Quest delivers the best bang for your buck and here is why:

  • you can use it as a standalone headset (no need for an expensive PC)
    You can play all games made specifically for the Quest. The quality of the experience is similar to PC VR.
  • play PC VR games
    Once Oculus Link is out, you will be able to play ALL VR games made for PC. To do that you will need computer powerful enough to run those games. Of course the experience will not be as good as for the best systems made specifically for PC: tracking less accurate, smaller field of view, more stutter.

 

Why it isn’t simply the best:

  • tracking less accurate than for outside-in systems
  • lower framerate: 72 Hz instead of 144 of the Valve Index
  • field of view is 100 degrees instead of 200 for Pimax
  • resolution of 1600 x 1440 per eye is lower than north of 2000 x 2000 for Pimax or HP Reverb

 

What does it all mean ?

The experience is not as good as the best, yet it is more than adequate.




Cheapest products (a serious gamer or media consumer ? – then skip).

The cheapest is probably Google cardboard. To use it you will need a suitable smartphone. There are a bunch of other options (notably: Gear VR and Daydream) which require a smartphone as well.

All these headsets simply allow you to attach your phone to your head and use it as a screen and a hardware platform for games and other experiences.

The biggest flaws of these devices are listed here.



If you plan to use VR a lot, you should consider standalone or hybrid VR headsets (if you are after the very best experience then skip).

Standalone VR systems require neither a smartphone nor any other additional hardware, they work on their own.

Standalone VR systems:

  • Vive Focus Plus
  • Vive Focus
  • Mirage Solo
  • Oculus Go

Hybrid VR systems (can be used as a standalone or with PC):

  • Oculus Quest    once Oculus Link is out you will be able to use it as a headset for PC as well

 

Pros of standalone VR vs VR for PC and PS4:

  • much cheaper
    That’s due to the fact that you need neither a powerful PC nor a console.
  • easy to use
    Very simple setup. No headaches with setting up sensors and cameras. No compatibiltity issues typical for a PC. Perfect for casual gamers having half an hour to play here and there.
  • cordless & portable
    You can take it with you when traveling. Oculus Go straps are designed in such a way that you can use it even while lying in bed (this applies to the Quest as well)… and the cord doesn’t get in the way because there is NO CORD !!!
  • Oculus Quest & Vive Focus Plus deliver similar experience as PC or PS4

 

Cons of standalone VR vs VR for PC and PS4:

  • less powerful processor and graphics card
    Standalones can’t really compete with the quality of the best VR for PC, however, best quality comes at the cost of being connected to a PC with a cable. Obviously it has a negative impact on the immersion.
  • lower framerate
  • stutter more
  • no hands presence for Oculus Go, Mirage Solo and Vive Focus
    They all make use of a single controller without positional tracking. As a result VR representation of hands is simply not possible. That severly reduces the ability to interact with a digital world.
    Both Oculus Quest and Vive Focus Plus are bundled with controllers which bring hands presence to standalone VR for the very first time.
  • Oculus Go headset has no positional tracking at all
    Every other standalone headset has it, yet there are not many games for these systems which feature positional tracking as a part of game mechanics.

 

A detailed comparison between Oculus Quest & Go, Mirage Solo, Vive Focus & Focus Plus can be found here, and here is a summary of what owners of the Quest think about it.

If cons of standalones are hard to accept, please read on to learn about other options.




VR requiring an external processing unit is powered either by PlayStation 4 or a PC (take me straight to the very best).

Neither of them is cheap (a few hundred for the headset alone), so you should consider these only if you are a serious gamer, that is, someone who plays at least a couple of hours every week.

Before you proceed, you should familiar yourself with  shortcomings of the systems mentioned.



Let’s decide if you should get a VR system for PlayStation 4 or a PC.

At this point in time (June 2019) it’s hard to recommend PSVR unless the price is very good. It looks like the next year a new console PlayStation 5 is going to be released. Although Sony claims that the current version of PSVR is going to be compatible with their new product, PSVR experience is definitely the poorest  one.

 

Pros of PSVR:

  • the price of PlayStation 4 is at least two times lower than any VR capable PC
    PSVR requires PlayStation 4.
  • there are no problems with using any content for PSVR
    In theory any VR game for a PC can be used with any VR system for this platform. In practice you may run into problems if the game was not tested/created for the system you happen to have.
  • no software conflicts
    At times you’ll find that on a PC, after you install the required software, there is a chance that it won’t work properly because of the conflicts with other programs. Standalone VR systems don’t have this problem either.
  • Aim Controller
    It is an excellent “gun” for PSVR. On a PC, there is a tracker for the Vive which could be attached to a “gun” or anything else for that matter. Currently however, there is not much you can do with it.
  • the headset accommodates glasses well
  • more living room friendly than a PC
    Not anywhere close to the standalone VR though.

 

Cons of PSVR in comparison with PC VR:

  • less content
    There is a decent amount, just not as much as for a PC.
  • the price of the PSVR (excluding PlayStation 4) is higher than cheaper VR systems for a PC (excluding a PC itself of course)
  • not possible to make the headset wireless
  • impossible to use for work
    PC programs with a VR interface can actually be used to create something. There aren’t many of them though.
  • impossible to play non-VR PS4 games in VR
    It is possible to play some non-VR PC games in VR thanks to VorpX.
  • no integrated headphones
  • no hardware adjustment to IPD
    A minor issue since PSVR software adjustment works up to 70 mm

Please read on to learn about various VR systems for a PC.


If you have some more questions, please take a look at this list and you may find the answer.


VR systems for a PC can be divided into two categories depending on the method of tracking:

Outside-in:

  • Oculus Rift (version released in 2016)
  • HTC Vive and Vive Pro
  • Pimax 5K/8K
  • Valve Index

Inside-out:

  • Oculus Rift S
  • Windows Mixed Reality: Samsung Odyssey, Odyssey +, Lenovo Explorer, Asus, Dell Visor, Acer and HP.

 

Pros of inside-out vs outside-in tracking:

  • no need for external sensors
    That makes the setup less time consuming. If you have only one hour to play, arranging and then removing the sensors would eat up a large chunk of it. You would think twice before starting, unless you have a dedicated, permanent play area. Inside-out systems do not have this issue. Obviously it makes them easier to travel with, if that’s what you intend to do.
  • less restrictive with respect to play area
    Play area for outside-in must be regular, so nothing blocks field of view of the external sensors. Once you leave the play area tracking goes out of the window. Sensors for inside-out are installed in the headset, so tracking works everywhere. Play area is defined mostly to let the system know where the walls are, so it can notify you before you walk into them.

 

Cons of inside-out vs outside-in tracking:

  • tracking of the controllers is less robust (within the play area)
    Outside-in works very well in situations where at least one sensor sees where the controllers are. Inside-out has quite a few dead zones. It won’t work if your hands (holding the controllers) dangle naturally along you sides, if you put them behind your back or close to the headset.
  • tracking is less accurate (within the play area)
    That makes a difference for dynamic games (e.g. Beat Saber), mostly when you play competitively.

 

Go to outside-in section or read on to choose between inside-out systems.

 


Pros of Oculus Rift S vs Windows Mixed Reality (WMR)

  • better tracking
    Oculus Rift S headset has 5 cameras instead of 2 for WMR.
  • superior controllers
    Touch sensors, more action buttons, longer battery life. This translates into better experience while playing games made for Oculus.
  • on-board speakers
    Very convenient. You put the headset on and don’t have to worry about the sound. Also, you can hear what’s going on outside of the VR, which is useful if other people may intrude into the play area. Obviously quality delivered by the good headphones is better. The headset has an audio jack, so you can always use your headphones if you prefer.


 

Cons of Oculus Rift S vs Windows Mixed Reality (WMR)

  • distance between the lenses is fixed
    Out of all WMRs only Samsung allows to adjust it to your IPD. Lenses of the Oculus Rift S have a large sweet spot though, so software adjustment should be good enough if your IPD is in range: 61 – 67 mm.
  • slightly lower maximal framerate of 80 instead of 90 Hz
    For most use cases the difference is negligible.
  • contrast of LCD display (Rift S) is not as good as OLED of Samsung
    Again, to notice it you have to use both back to back.
  • SDE of Samsung Odyssey Plus is less visible
  • higher minimal PC requirements
    WMRs work with some graphics cards integrated into the processor so you don’t need to buy a graphics card at all. That comes at a cost – framerate drops to 60Hz instead of 90 recommended for quality VR experience. Of course you can upgrade your system later.

 

If WMR sounds like a better choice, please read on.



Let’s choose which WMR system is for you.

 

Pros of Samsung Odyssey and Odyssey + vs other WMRs:

  • hardware adjustment to IPD
    Software adjustment for other WMRs has an upper limit of 67 mm.
  • quality headphones and microphone integrated with the headset
    That’s more convenient than using the external ones.

 

Cons of Samsung in comparison with other WMRs:

  • not the most comfortable
    In terms of comfort Lenovo is probably the best out of all the WMRs.

 

If the pros shine, you have made a choice: Samsung Odyssey. Let’s find out if you prefer Odyssey +.


Pros of Odyssey + vs Odyssey:

  • less heavy
  • breathable padding
    Lenses won’t fog up as easily.
  • more comfortable nose flaps
  • the headset facilitates Bluetooth connection with the controllers
    As a result your PC doesn’t need to have Bluetooth at all, and connection is more stable.

 

Other changes:

  • Odyssey Plus has wider nose cup and wider face mask
    For some people it improves the comfort, for others it increases the amount of light leaking inside the headset.

 

Other than Samsung, Lenovo Explorer seems to be the next best choice. It’s light, very comfortable and has a wide field of view.

Other WMRs are not bad at all and are worth considering if the price is right.




or press here for other options.



Let’s evaluate Vives and Oculus Rift (the one released in 2016).

Pros of both Vives (Vive and Vive Pro) vs the Rift (2016):

  • better fit for glasses
    You can adjust the eye relief for the headset which creates more space for glasses.
  • bigger play area
    If you don’t have a spare area of 11 ft x 11 ft (3.5 m x 3.5 m), this advantage is useless.
  • brighter screen
  • Vive Tracker
    There are no trackers for Oculus. There is not much you can do with the Vive Tracker at the moment though.

 

Pros of the Vive Pro vs Vive & Rift (2016):

Cons of Vive Pro vs Vive & Rift (2016):

  • very expensive



Pros of the Vive vs Rift (2016) & Vive Pro:

  • doesn’t need troublesome USB 3.0



Cons of both Vives vs the Rift (2016):

  • too much sweating may damage Vive and Vive Pro
    There are problems with having it fixed under warranty.
  • Vive Pro is significantly more expensive
  • experience on a weak PC may not be as good as on the Rift (2016)
    Oculus asynchronous spacewarp technology compensate for sudden frame rate drops, which are more likely on a less capable PC.

If cons make you feel uneasy, choose the Rift (2016).

Otherwise, using pros specific for the Vive and Vive Pro and remembering that Pro is more expensive, you can narrow down your choice to a single device.

Bear in mind that Vive Pro is compatible with Base Station 1.0 and 2.0, Vive will only work with 1.0.

Thanks to TPCAST adapter it is possible to make Vive and Oculus headsets wireless. It is not the easiest thing to use though and it is quite expensive.

Vive has just released its own wireless adapter. It looks like it’s not that great either.

If you have more questions about the Rift or Vive, you may be able to find the answers here and here respectively.




The most capable right now are:

  • Pimax 5K / 8K
  • Valve Index
  • HP Reverb

The price of these systems and a PC which allows to fully appreciate their potential is rather high though. More details about that will be posted here shortly.

 

Next in line are: HTC Vive Pro, Samsung Odyssey and Odyssey Plus. They have high resolution and a wide field of view.

Bear in mind that Oculus Touch (the native controllers of the Oculus Rift) are superior to everything else with one exception: Valve Index controllers, which can be used with Vive and Vive Pro as well.

Pros of the Vive Pro vs Odyssey & Odyssey+:

  • tracking of the controllers is accurate everywhere in the play area
    Tracking of the Odyssey Controllers has some blind spots. Most games work good enough, however occasional glitches may be annoying, especially when rock solid tracking is a must.
  • it is possible to make the headset wireless using Vive’s wireless adapter
  • Vive Tracker
    The tracker can be attached to any object to make it part of the game. There is not much you can do with it at the moment.
  • adjustment of the eye relief
    That’s useful for making more space for glasses if you need them.



Cons of the Vive Pro vs Odyssey & Odyssey+:

  • too much sweating can damage the headset
    Having it fixed under warranty can be a problem.
  • inferior audio quality
  • much more expensive
  • more demanding system requirements
    Samsung delivers 60 Hz frame rate when run on a weak PC. 90 Hz is a minimum for optimal VR comfort. Of course you can always buy a monster graphics card later.
  • less portable
    Samsung Odyssey doesn’t require any external sensors.

 

Pros win – choose the Vive Pro, otherwise Samsung Odyssey or Odyssey Plus is a better choice. Click here for a comparison between Odyssey + and Odyssey.




Is it worth the price ?

To answer this question, it is helpful to put the price in perspective. Click the system you chose to go to the relevant section: PSVR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive. If you decided to grab WMR or Vive Pro, the reasoning for HTC Vive holds in these cases as well.


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2 thoughts on “Decision tree for choosing VR system

  1. Keith

    Well done decision tree. A few comments about Odyssey vs Vive Pro. The Odyssey has better lenses with the best black levels. I thought the Vive Pro was going to have better sound but they botched it. But the biggest advantage of the Odyssey is the ability to enable Motion Reprojection (ASW)–it’s awesome. SweViver says Motion ReProjection makes the Odyssey a better choice than the Vive Pro.

    Motion Reprojection for WMR and ASW for Oculus are a significant plus over the Vive

    Reply

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